Norma Jeanne Ehlert Coret passed into eternal rest on September 12, 2020 at the age of 93 years, nine months and eight days at Specialty Care Initiatives in Dunlap, Iowa.
Norma was born at home during a blizzard on December 4, 1926 in Magnolia, Iowa near the Dutch Four Corners area to Arthur Frederick Ehlert and Lois Mabel (Beebee) Ehlert. When she was four years old, the family moved east of Woodbine to land still farmed today by son, Peter, and grandson, Patrick. After attending country school, she boarded in town for high school and graduated from Woodbine Normal School in 1944. She attended Iowa State University, where she began her lifelong membership in the Kappa Phi Club. After sabbaticals to teach country school for tuition money, she graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Art. She first taught K-12 home economics in a Minnesota public school for a year before moving to Los Angeles to work the next five years as a home economist in the test kitchens at Southern California Edison. During those years, she posed as a model in the utility’s advertising materials, made home visits to teach customers how to use their “new-fangled” electric appliances, and assisted Bob Barker (later of The Price is Right fame) during his weekly radio program held at the utility.
In 1953, Norma became a Marine Corps wife when marrying William F. Coret at the First United Methodist Church in Woodbine. She followed her husband to military bases in Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, California, and Indiana before settling with her family in Woodbine in 1967. In 1970, she and Bill purchased her “dream house” at 606 Walker Street in Woodbine. She spent the next several decades lovingly restoring the Victorian-era home inside and out. There were many near miss collisions on Walker Street when drivers first saw teacher Phil Hummel’s summer crew painting the house blue along 12 bright trim colors.
Professionally, Norma initiated the art education curriculum at Woodbine Public Schools in 1967 under the oversight of Superintendent Henry Boone. Over the years, she taught hundreds of 7th – 12th grade students while continuing her education at University of Nebraska in art education and German language. In 1988, she earned a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Iowa while also receiving her Permanent Professional Teacher’s certificate. In 1992, she resigned from Woodbine schools to teach art history at the University of Nebraska. With a fierce thirst for education, she continued to study Greek and Roman art in travels to Sicily, Israel, Jordan, Greece, Turkey, and Italy with the Vergilian Society. In 2000, she earned her Ph.D. with an emphasis in Administration, Curriculum, and Instruction from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She joined the Iowa Western Community College art department as an adjunct faculty member the next year. After a teaching career spanning 44 years, Norma permanently retired in 2010.
Through-out her life, Norma immersed herself in a multitude of philanthropic endeavors in her community. She founded Town & Country Arts with other like-minded Harrison County residents in the early 1970’s. Over the decades, she served the organization in various board positions and was a tireless grant writer and volunteer for art exhibits, plays, and programs like Artists In The Schools. As a staunch supporter for gender equity, Norma was also a 50+ year member of the American Association of University Women and served as president, parliamentarian, and grant writer for the Denison branch. On the state level, she served AAUW as Membership Chair and Issues Development Director. Norma was also active with the Iowa Arts Council, the Lincoln Highway Association, and the “Save The School” campaign for the preservation of the Woodbine Normal School building. With the exception of a few years away during her husband’s military service, she was a lifelong member of Woodbine’s First United Methodist Church.
Many will also remember Norma as a long-time activist with the Harrison County Democrats. She was always ready for a rousing political discussion, often hosted fundraising events for candidates, and sought to increase voter registrations door-to-door. While in her 80’s, she unsuccessfully campaigned for Harrison County Supervisor, but remained undeterred in her passion to help with current and political issues. Even when suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease late in life, Norma maintained an avid interest in politics and party candidates.
In her personal life, Norma delighted in hosting formal dinners for family and friends. She was the driving force behind Beebee and Ehlert family reunions and could always be counted on for a large pot of oyster soup after Christmas caroling with the McElwain cousins. Friendships were important to her as evidenced by her 50+ year correspondence with a British pen-pal, with whom she connected during a WWII era school project and finally met during her international travels. She treasured impromptu visits, class reunions, and loved to garden, sew, collect art from local talent, and create her own artwork.
As one of the last of her generation Norma deeply felt each loss, especially that of first cousin Loie McElwain, but always sought ways to look forward and stay relevant. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Donald Beebee Ehlert, and former husband William F. Coret. She is survived by her children, Christopher (Susan) of Kingston, Georgia; Jonathan (Kristin) of Jefferson City, Missouri; Peter (Diane) of Woodbine; and Caroline (Glenn) Walsh of Franklin, Tennessee. She is also survived by grandchildren Jon Coret, Aaron Coret, Patrick (Krystal) Coret, Tanya (Travis) Coret-Duggan, Stephen Walsh, and Samuel Walsh, plus 9 great-grandchildren, cousins, friends, former students, and long-time loyal friend Louretta Waite.
The family are grateful for the caregivers at Dunlap Specialty Care Initiatives where she resided for the past 4 years. They would also like to acknowledge the wonderful assistance they received from Care Initiatives Hospice during Norma’s final days.
Although far less than she deserves for a life well lived, Norma will be honored in a private graveside service in the interest of community safety given the Covid pandemic. She will be laid to rest next to her paternal great grandparents which is just a short walk from her parent’s graves at the Magnolia cemetery.
Those wishing an expression of sympathy are asked to consider donations to Harrison County Democratic candidates, the National Organization for Women (www.now.org), the American Association of University Women (www.aauw.org), or the Woodbine First United Methodist Church, 509 Lincoln Way, Woodbine 51579.
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